February 12, 2018

My Thoughts on Shakespeare's "Hamlet"

Isn't that an awesome setup?!
{Beware. I have FEELINGS about our lovely playwright...}

So over the weekend, I had the privilege of watching Shakespeare's Hamlet onstage at the American Shakespeare Center's Blackfriars Playhouse. And I have to admit that I was uncertain about it beforehand. As you may or may not know, my dear friend, Hamlette, LOVES this play (as if her name doesn't give that away, right? ;) and so, due to her enthusiasm and the fact that I'd be watching it with her, I decided to give it a go. Just to say I'd seen it once, but mainly to spend more time with her! (I totally admit that latter reason was the biggest one of all.) When someone is really passionate about something, it makes me happy to listen to them expound on why they love it so, even if I don't happen to feel the same way. Such was the way Hamlette feels about Hamlet, and also why I agreed to watch it with her. :)

But y'all!

Oh, wow. To say that I was blown away by the acting? Especially the guy who played Hamlet himself, Josh Innerst? Just WOW.

Okay, so I feel I should preface all of this to explain my relationship with Shakespeare thus far in my life. I've never been a huge fan of his, to say the least. I knew he was considered a "classic writer" or whatever term fits. But there's loads of classics out there that I've no interest in reading! So that meant nothing. In high school, we had to read Romeo & Juliet, and can I just be honest with you? (All R&J lovers out there, please don't hate me) Romeo and his Juliet have got to be the stupidest teenagers I've ever read about. I enjoy love stories, okay? Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity is totally going to know that by now. But R&J? Is SO not a love story in my book. It's depressing and horrible and they make really stupid, life-ending decisions all because they were supposedly "in love". That is not love, guys. Nope. (Sorry! But my dislike of R&J is serious.)

So! As you can guess, my first introduction to our main man, Shakespeare, was a total bust! I hated Romeo & Juliet and, thus, was very uninterested in reading anything else of his. Especially when my English teacher droned on and on about how all of his characters' choices had meaning, the only "meaning" I ever got out of those characters was how depressing they seemed!

{By the by, I'm not saying I was right in feeling this way about his plays, I'm just saying that was my impression at the time...}

But! Somewhere along the way, I found out that he'd written a non-depressing play. What is this craziness?! The idea that he'd written a comedy intrigued me (especially when I figured out there was a bit of romance in it.....what can I say? I'm a hopeless fool for romance in a story.) and so when I had the chance to read Much Ado About Nothing, I took it and fell in love. I will admit that I didn't truly fall in love with it until I saw Kenneth Branagh's version onscreen.

{Sidenote, it was mentioned sometime on Saturday that Shakespeare seems to translate better once you see the character onstage or onscreen versus just reading the lines of the play. I completely agree with this!! I understand so much more of the motives of the characters based on their facial expressions and body language! Plus the humorous lines just come through SO much more clearly and hilariously. I laughed at many moments during Hamlet that I'm not certain I would have by just reading the line itself.}

Maybe I should do a post about the versions of
Much Ado I've enjoyed so far? Hmmmm....
Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson became my Benedick and Beatrice. Their banter was perfect, their chemistry was glorious, and I simply loved every minute of the story. (I know, this post is supposed to be about Hamlet, not Much Ado About Nothing! I'm getting there, promise. Hang with me here just a bit longer!)

Thus, I decided that this guy, Shakespeare, maybe wasn't worth writing off completely just yet. But I still was awfully hesitant about his really popular tragedies. I'm a happily-ever-after girl, okay?! I like my endings to at least have hope! No depressing endings for me, thank you!

So when I asked Hamlette, before we watched the play, to tell me what it is that she loves about this story so much, I was really hoping she'd help me to understand it better. I was planning to spend at least two hours with this, I wanted hope that I wouldn't be miserable that entire time! I am happy to say she did her job. :) I sat down with, maybe not an expectation to love it, but anticipation of a storyline I could understand and sympathize with. And oh, I got that. Boy, did I ever get that! :)

First of all, I was happy to have read a little about the play before watching, so I went into it knowing at least the basics of what was supposed to happen. (Shakespeare's lines, people! You have to admit that he can be a bit hard to understand when you've got an actor/actress spitting out these complicated lines lickity-split.) The best thing though? I laughed so, so many times! I was not prepared for that. I absolutely fell in love with how Shakespeare wrote in all these little moments of sarcasm! Especially during really emotional scenes. Hamlet would be all intense and focused and then suddenly throw out this ridiculous line that would catch me by surprise! It was hilarious and perfect and I think probably my favorite thing about the play. :)

dr ralph ten things to know hamlet josh innerst blackfriars playhouse
image via
Then there was the acting. I already mentioned the guy who played Hamlet. He was AMAZING, y'all. Seriously! He'd go from being all agonizing turmoil, to throwing out this sarcastic little thought, then right back into the intensity, all while never losing his momentum or energy! By the end of the play, I could see the sweat dripping down his face and could totally understand why. Because whoa! The character of Hamlet seriously requires a ton of energy! He might not be in every single scene, but his presence was felt at all times, even when offstage. He definitely had the pressure of carrying most of the heavy weight of this story and man did he ever come through. I was very impressed with his acting. And all the other actors and actresses did a wonderful job as well!

Can I just mention the play itself now though? {Beware spoilers!} Because there was one thing I was stumped on. Having read a bit about the play beforehand, I was wondering what I'd think regarding Hamlet and his "madness". Whatever website I found last week (can't remember now) mentioned about how there are differing opinions on whether Hamlet was putting on a show of being mad or if he truly did become a bit crazy. And I still don't know what I think about that! (So if you know the story, please feel free to enlighten me. I would enjoy some clarification on this.) I began the first half thinking that he was totally putting on a show, but there were moments that I began to feel uncertain. Also, considering that Ophelia then becomes mad near the end, and I do think hers was very real, then that raises the possibility that Shakespeare could have meant that Hamlet did the same. His madness was just much more slighter and he had his revenge to keep him grounded, perhaps. I don't know! All I am certain of is that there are moments when Hamlet is clearly putting on a facade. Yet was he the entire time? I think it was during the scene when he sees his father's ghost up in the ceiling/sky (whichever it was) when he's with his mother that I felt a slight doubt as to him "acting" that bit. But maybe that's just the interpretation of the director of this particular version? Maybe it's purposely vague? I don't know! What do you think?

I do want to mention how fun it was to hear several lines that I recognized but had never actually heard in their context. Like, "To be or not to be, that is the question." And "Alas, poor Yorick...", as well as "Doubt thou the stars are fire; Doubt that the sun doth move; Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love." Also, "Brevity is the soul of wit." and "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." Those are the only ones I can remember off the top of my head currently. I've heard or seen those lines quoted lots of times, but I never really understood them. Naturally! Because you need to hear them in context to understand! And I do. Kinda sorta anyway. :)

(Speaking of quotes, I have to mention that I had the privilege of sitting beside Hamlette and watching as she quoted the lines right alongside the actors. Very impressive! :)

Whew! Okay, I think I'd better stop here. Anyone still with me? I hope I haven't driven you all away! But to simplify, in case anyone skips all those paragraphs just to get to this one, it was an excellently done production! I really enjoyed watching it, and it wasn't depressing. I appreciated that there was a slight hopefulness at the end. Very glad I had the chance to watch it! Not so sure I'm going to run out and immediately watch every onscreen version now, but I still thoroughly enjoyed myself. Yay!

February 2, 2018

First Line Fridays :: A Brush with the Law

Hello, my lovelies. I am here for week three (for me) of First Line Fridays! How awesome am I?! (You don't need to actually answer that. ;) As usual, the lovely ladies over at Hoarding Books are hosting the fun...

So! Today is a special edition theme: Little Month...Little Book. I am not currently reading any novellas....BUT. I did remember one I read last year right around Valentine's Day and since Valentine's is almost here...

Without further ado, I give you... A Brush with the Law by Janette Rallison


It was going to be another great Valentine’s Day— at least for someone else. For Bethany Daniels it was another work day— one where her shoulders ached and she was splattered in paint.

Janette Rallison has become one of my go-to author's for sweet romances. Especially when I need a quick little pick-me-up! This particular story is super short, but super adorable! Poor Bethany has a seriously awful day, which only means there has to be a chance for it to become better, right? And when a certain fella makes his appearance? The cute really begins! It's my favorite of all the stories in this anthology and never fails to make me grin no matter how many times I've reread it. (And I've reread it at least ten to fifteen times so far! I told you. I really like it! See my review for further reference. :)

So, what are you reading this weekend? What's your first line?
Open the book nearest you and post the first line in the comments below…
OR just click over here to join in with everyone else!

January 30, 2018

Bite-Sized Reviews :: Edition Thirty-Three

Hello, my lovelies! Here I am with just a couple more reviews for your reading pleasure! I think I'm finally getting caught up now, so yay. I trust your week is going well! So let's dive into the stories, shall we? :)

The Hearts We Mend by Kathryn Springer
I loved Jack!! And Evie too, but Jack was my favorite. Such a swoony and GOOD man. He’s a keeper for sure. I totally admit that I went in to this one purely for the romance and I ended up being blindsided with just how wonderful Jack is! I loved the little family he created around him, simply by having his door open and being willing to be there for each of his neighbors. And his neighbors were quirky and awesome!

But Jack and Evie together? Oh my heart, I love those two! I love their instantaneous attraction and they way they just simply could not stay away from each other. All the heart-eyes for Jack, reader friends! Trust me, you need to meet this man. He will make you melt with his goodness, especially when it comes to a couple adorable little girls who love to twirl! ;)

Yet this story is so much more than just a romance. Evie and Jack both have to learn to truly open up to each other, and they mutually challenge the other to become an even better person than they already are. Beautiful story, beautiful writing, read this one, friends!

Beyond the Storm by Carolyn Zane
I unearthed this little story from the back of my TBR shelf recently, while sorting my books. I'd actually forgotten I had it and upon reading the blurb again, was intrigued enough to read it all in one sitting right then! It's a sweet story that delves into the harshness of tornadoes and the resilience of those devastated by their effects. Kudos to Ms. Zane for making me feel like I was right there huddled with these residents as they endured the tornado and its aftermath! I cannot imagine going through such a horrible experience, and my heart was in my throat during those scenes.

My favorite part was the new surrogate family that the tornado brought together. These people are all so very different and under ordinary circumstances, they probably would never have even said much more than hello to one another. But needs must bring them all under one roof and I loved seeing them help each other through! The romance bits were sweet as well, but as they weren't the overall focus of the story, there's not a lot of time spent there. Ultimately an enjoyable read!

A (kinda) Country Christmas by Krista Phillips
This is a super cute little Christmas novella that was perfect for a quick read to made me grin. Ms. Phillips definitely has a great sense of humor because her stories never fail to make me giggle! :) Watching Sadie and Nate navigate this "frustrating" attraction was sweet because neither is in any way prepared for it. So they stumble their way around, trying so hard to deny they like each other, while everyone around them just never believes them. :D This is simply a delightful story to read all year round, not just at Christmas!

January 29, 2018

Bite-Sized Reviews :: Edition Thirty-Two

And I'm back with more reviews! Yay! I know how excited you are. Yep. I sure do. So! Enough about all that I know, let's get to the reviews, shall we? :)

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Much as I love Jane Austen, it's crazy that it took till now for me to read this one, right? And, of course, I loved it! I actually started out listening to the audiobook and got so impatient to read faster that I pulled out my physical copy and finished it up. And then went back and finished the audiobook because it was just that good! :) As always with her books, I am in love with Austen's sense of humor. All the little asides the narrator constantly slips in, just the sheer delight in all the little details! I laughed so much while reading/listening to this, especially at moments that I wasn't expecting to.

I definitely expected to love Elinor and Edward, however, and I did indeed! Elinor isn't perfect and I didn't always understand her, but there's just something about her that I connect with. And Edward makes some awfully foolish decisions himself! (Lucy Steele, anyone? *shudder*) But the two of them together? Ah, my heart!

In all the adaptations I've seen, Marianne tends to frustrate me, so I was curious how I'd like her in original form. She still frustrated me at times, but I definitely liked her a lot better here! And Colonel Brandon? He's certainly a lot more swoony on the page! :)

With Austen's delicious wit and my love of the characters, it's guaranteed that I'd  love this! And I did, naturally. Enough to want to read/listen again and again!

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer
First, can I just say how much I love this cover? So pretty! And it illustrates the feel of the story very well. As for the story itself, I loved it! The theme of grief is such a difficult one to handle, even fictionally, and Ms. Kemmerer did a fantastic job. I was right there with Juliet as she worked through all her emotions, and I loved seeing her reach a better place by the end. It wasn't an easy journey, but grieving never is. It's often a harsh growth, yet there is beauty there. And I totally understood her need to write out her feelings!

And then there's Declan, who found her letters and, subsequently, forms an immediate connection with this letter-writer. I love, love, love it when characters fall for the written words of the other! That is where we humans tend to let our true selves be known, so the idea of falling for someone that way is just what makes this word-loving girl happy! :D

The chemistry between Juliet and Declan is fairly electric, as well! Watching them open up to each other and deal with their attraction is simply delightful. The build up of tension, the will-they won't-they aspect, was exceptionally well done. But I have to admit that I was slightly disappointed in the payout of that tension. The ending was a little too rushed for me. I liked where they ended up, don't get me wrong! But all the redemption and happiness happened way too quickly in comparison with all the build up before. Yet don't let that deter you from reading this one, friends! Because I did really enjoy it, rushed ending and all.

The Whys Have It by Amy Matayo
And why did I wait so long to read this? I loved it! Hit all the right emotions and that chemistry between Cory and Sam? *swoon* Ms. Matayo just knows how to write a bad boy with a soft heart, doesn't she? I loved seeing these two characters deal with the fall out of decisions out of their control and how they helped each other through it. Their guilt and uncertainty felt real. And the way they grew closer, almost unconsciously, in spite of the hurt they caused each other. Like I said, their chemistry is amazing!

Both have had it rough, especially Sam, but they endured. And it's that very strength that endeared both of them to me. Faced with situations that seem to constantly beat them down, both Sam and Cory refuse to stay there. They pick themselves back up and move forward. Oh, it's not easy, but they do it. And as they strive harder, they slowly begin to realize how much better they are together instead of alone. Their character growth is beautiful to behold and I was cheering, by the final chapter, to see them making wiser choices and loving so well! This story is Amy Matayo at her best and I can't wait for more of her books! :)

The Start of Us by Jill Lynn Buteyn
This is super adorable! A quick and fun read that made me grin. I certainly wasn't expecting that little twist, although I probably should have because I could look back and see the hints, but I was happily clueless. It was a very cute storyline though!

If you're in need of a sweet romance, but not much reading time available, may I suggest you give this one a try? I really don't think you'll be disappointed. :)


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